Good news from the Central Bureau of Statistics – Israelis’ average salary (before taxes) is now NIS 8,210 per month. That’s 1.4 % higher than the first half of 2007.
Problem is that prices of basic staple goods are rising at a much faster rate. The CBS also publishes the monthly Consumer Price Index to track retail prices around the country. Turns out that the price of pasta has risen 15.2% since January of this year, fresh beef 11.3% (29.3 % frozen), chicken is up 21% and cooking oil is 20.2% higher than last September. The biggest whopper is rice: 73.9% more expensive this year than last.
Put in dollar form, NIS 8,210 is just over $27,000 a year – just moderately higher than the U.S. poverty line of $22,200 a year for a family of four, and fails to take into account that even secular Israeli families have more than two children on average.
It also pays to consider what taxes do to that NIS 8,210 shekels. Depending on family size, area of residence and several other factors, working women can expect to lose approximately 12% of their gross salaries, to come home with something like NIS 7,200. Their husbands will come out even worse off, bringing home something in the order of NIS 6,000 after taxes.
In real terms, even families with two average salaries will fall far short of their monthly expenses. A three-bedroom rental apartment near Jerusalem – outside the city) currently runs approximately NIS 3,500 a month, far more than that the closer one gets to the downtown area. Municipal taxes, known locally as “arnona,” often total NIS 1,000 per month, and if the working parents have a baby to take care of, full-time childcare is at least another NIS 1700. That’s more than NIS 6,000 per month in basic expenses, and we haven’t started to calculate food, home utilities, transportation or other basic necessities.
Several months ago, I was privy to a conversation between a veteran immigrant family and a couple on a “pilot trip” to speck out housing and employment opportunities before taking the plunge of moving to Israel. For a family with four teenage kids, the veterans said, expect to spend more than NIS 17,000 a month in food, insurance, education, pocket money and other run-of-the-mill expenses.
That amounts to NIS 204,000 per year, or nearly US $57,000. Compare that to the average U.S. salary (2006) 58,029, and the picture becomes clear: The salary needs of average Israelis are far in excess of the average salary that Israeli employers are willing to pay. The impact on food service charities should be obvious.